Egypt (MNN) — Votes have been cast, and polls have closed in Egypt's first-ever truly democratic presidential elections.
The elections themselves have been met with both excitement and apprehension as Egyptians vote for the first time and await the news of who will lead their tumultuous nation. Christians are feeling both excitement and apprehension, too, but perhaps for different reasons.
Currently, Egypt is ranked as the fifteenth worst nation in the world in which to be a Christian, according to the Open Doors World Watch List. Harassment, imprisonment, and even death are not uncommon fates for believers who are vocal about their faith.
Persecution has only heated up since former president Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year. Now, many believers speculate that the outcome of this week's presidential elections will cause more trouble for Christ-followers.
"It's certainly not an optimistic time for most of the Christians in the country now," admits Carl Moeller with Open Doors. "On a practical level, the restrictions on Christian expression and the uncertainties of the church in the country continue to grow. That is a very real concern of Christians–Orthodox and evangelical–in that country."
Results of the presidential election will officially be released this Tuesday, May 29. If a candidate with extreme views of Islam is elected, things are likely to get worse.
"With the parliamentary elections of last year, 75% of those elected were from the extremist or ultra-extremist views of Islam," says Moeller. "And that is a very strong concern for the Christian community: if the president is elected along the same lines, that could spell a lot of additional pressure on the Egyptian Christian church."
On the other hand, there are Mubarak "remnants" running, too. If one of Mubarak's former supporters wins, extremist groups will be outraged, says Moeller. The dissatisfaction stirred by that could also mean bad news for believers.
Despite what, to many, appears to be a lose-lose situation for Egypt's 10% Christian population, believers are in some way unfazed by the possible election outcomes. For instance, next week Christians from three denominations will host an all-night prayer event in remembrance of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fleeing to safety in Egypt some 2,000 years ago. 70,000 people are expected to show up and pray for the nation from May 31 to the morning of June 1.
It's quite a prospect, in light of the possible hardships to come. But Moeller says, "Our hope is not in politics. Our hope is in the prayers of God's people around the world for the Christian church in Egypt. [Pray] that the preservation of the church would be seen as a powerful witness to the reality of Jesus Christ."
"One of the most encouraging things about being with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Egypt who are suffering in this very turbulent time is that their faith is firmly rooted in the hope of Jesus Christ. The pressures that they have faced have only served to unite the church in its commitment to being the body of Christ in that place," observes Moeller.
The outcome of the election is still highly uncertain. The existence and perseverance of God's Church in Egypt is not. Stand with the Egyptian church in prayer this week and next.